An Open heart
By Co-Representative General
Murshid Hidayat Inayat-Khan
An Open Heart
The word Sufi, according to Greek and Arabic etymologies, means "wisdom" for the one, and "purity" for the other. However, both concepts clearly suggest one and the same ideal. Wisdom is only there when the mind is purified from preconceived ideas, the burdens of dogma and an unrestful conscience. As to the origin of Sufism, one could say that it is also just as ancient as the concepts of wisdom and purity, which have always been the inspiration of devotional worship all down the ages. Sufism is not a cult nor is it a school of theology. Sufism is an open door, an attitude of truest sympathy towards all beliefs. As the essence of all religious ideals, Sufism has been appropriated by large cultural and religious streams during different periods in history, but without ever losing its own identity.
When pronouncing the word Sufism, the 'ism' has a tendency to confine the understanding of wisdom, which is in truth beyond limitations and could never be identified with only one belief, although there are as many descriptions of wisdom as there are seekers on the path. Wisdom might perhaps be recognisable but can not be tangible nor, even less, subject to definition. Therefore, for the one who is truly wise there is only the reality of wisdom itself, beyond all speculative interpretations.
As soon as one attempts to define abstract concepts, one is taken away into the labyrinth of one's own thoughts which descend into speculative descriptions, and one builds up one's own illusions which, added to the many which one picks up, together with numerous impressions and influences, constitute our mind world. Then, when putting one's beliefs and understandings into words, these tend to deviate from the original ideas, which were themselves only arbitrary concepts, and it is the result of all this which is so often presented as being the one and only truth.
For a Sufi, the diversity of religious names and forms are like veils covering the phenomena of the Spirit of Guidance manifested at all levels of evolution. This explains why one of the great ideals of the Sufi is the awakening of a broader outlook, with deeper insight into the tragic misunderstandings which divide earnest followers of various cultural and philosophical traditions.
All religions are in their origin of Divine inspiration, but, like the image of water poured into different coloured glasses, as soon as Divine inspiration becomes formulated in human thought it acquires the image of one's thinking. We then call one religion Hinduism, another Buddhism, and still another Zoroastrianism, while others are called Judaism, Christianity, Islam, as well as many other religious denominations, known or unknown to the world at large.
A Sufi, by definition, is a religious soul whose nature is to be freed from imposed theories, and who is perfectly conscious that life is not necessarily just what one might think it to be. For a Sufi, life is not only lived at the level of physical experience, nor only at the levels of thought and feeling, but also, and most importantly, at a still higher level of consciousness where the self is no more a barrier separating reality from illusion. At this level of consciousness there are no limitations nor opposites, nor any place for dualistic speculation on the subject of the Divinity. When trying to explain God one only fashions an individual concept, limited to the size of one's own mind world.
Another subject found in Sufi teachings is the alchemy of happiness, which, as we know from fairy tales, is the use of a magic formula to turn base metal into gold. This mystical legend symbolises so beautifully the fundamental principle of the Inner School of the Sufis, where deep consideration is offered to training the ego along a thorny path known as the art of personality, and where false identification and illusory aspirations are less of a hindrance in discovering the Divine Presence hidden as a pearl in one's heart. This requires constant efforts in forging the character into a living example of wisdom, so as to become a bringer of happiness to brothers and sisters of all beliefs.
Happiness, which is a birthright, although we are not always conscious of that privilege, is only there to the extent that one becomes a source of happiness for others, through trying to appreciate the good in others, and overlooking that which disturbs when not in accord with one's own thinking; through trying to see the point of view of others, even though these might be contrary to one's own; and through trying to attune oneself to the rhythm of all those one meets, and in whose presence there might be a lesson to learn.
Hazrat Inayat Khan came to us with a message of Spiritual Liberty, revealing thereby the real nature of spirituality as inherent to liberty of thought and feeling. Another great teaching of our Master is the Unity of Religious Ideals, which implies being liberated from such feelings as 'my religion' as opposed to 'your religion.' The religion of our time is destined to be the religion of the heart, and since there are many hearts, there are just as many religious ideals springing forth from one and the same source, wherein wisdom and purity prevail. When the doors of the temple of the heart are open, humility awakens upon finding oneself face to face with the living God within.
The message of Love, Harmony and Beauty is like a Divine stream of spiritual evolution flowing onwards throughout our daily lives, and this awakening to purity and wisdom is the true essence of all that is understood by the term 'Sufi.'